Groundbreaking decision in Ohio sentencing hunter to jail for shooting family’s dogs

A Belmont County, Ohio hunter was sentenced on Monday to six-months in jail and three years probation after admitting to shooting and killing a family’s two dogs while the man had been hunting in December 2016. Michael Chedester of Clairsville, was sentenced under the Goddard’s Law (House Bill 60) making it a fifth degree felony to knowingly cause serious harm to a companion animal.

According to Wtov9 Fox News, Chedester had been in a tree stand at the time and observed the dogs chasing deer. His attorney argued that the law allows a property owner to shoot animals if they were menacing a person or menacing animals belonging to Chedester. Although the deer were wildlife, Chedester contended it was his property, and he was allowed to make claim by hunting the dogs since a deer killed during hunting became his property. According to the Intelligencer, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan argued that the deer were wildlife and did not fall under the law.

“Ownership does not exist in this particular case merely because wild animals are on your property,” he said.

Earlier in May, Chedester pleaded guilty to two felony counts of prohibitions concerning companion animals. At sentencing however the judge stated although the legislature toughened the laws on animal cruelty, they had not changed the sentencing factors.

The owner of the two deceased dogs named Bella and Emmy spoke to the court prior to Chedester’s sentencing. On that tragic day, Pete Byers had been ready to leave for work when his dogs disappeared.  It had been the opening day of gun season, and Byers was terrified that something could have happened to his beloved dogs. After an hours-long search of yelling the dogs’ names and with friends using four-wheelers to  aid in the search, one of the men reported having heard gun shots and a dog yelping.  Byers followed the trail and came up to Chedester and his tree stand. Both of his dogs had been shot  and killed.

“Needlessly hurting or taking an innocent life is never acceptable,” stated Pete Byers. “I guess it was swift justice, but it seemed like it took forever to me. A lot of sleepless nights, worrying, a lot of stress for no reason.”

It is hoped the attention received in this tragic case will deter other similar situations in the future.

(Photos of hunter killing dogs via Facebook)

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